Taking notes in lectures can be an extremely effective method of learning, as it forces you to pay attention to what the teacher is saying, in order to make your notes at all useful.
Another benefit to note taking arises as you near exam period, as it it easier to understand things you have written yourself, over a standard textbook.
However many people find that their notes are scruffy, incoherent and incomplete, which makes them useless a lot of the time and therefore many consider them a waste of time.
Here are some simple rules to follow, that will transform you into a note-taking guru(!):
- Make sure to number and date your notes, at the start of every lecture. Alternatively you can title them. Your notes need to be easy to order.
- Notes from different subjects should be kept separately. You can do this by either taking notes for each subject in a different notebook or writing all notes in a notebook with perforated pages, that you can tear out and keep separately after.
- Use abbreviations and symbols. A teacher, on average, will talk about 5 times faster than you are able to write, so don’t even try to write everything perfectly during class. You’ll just end up missing the next thing that’s said. It’s better to use abbreviations for longer words and for words used often (such as “&” in place of “and” or “bc” in place of “because”).
- Only write new information. Quite often, professors will recap on certain points to help you understand the next thing. There’s no point wasting time writing down something that was explained in the previous class, as you will already have this written down in your previous notes.
- Some things will need to be recorded word for word. Definitions being one of the most important to jot down exactly.
- Finally, make sure to rewrite your notes after class. This may seem like extra effort, but for the 10 minutes it’ll take, it’s an exercise that will increase your understanding of the lecture and it will give you a chance to transfer your notes into your own words, helping you remember them more easily.
Even though taking notes may seem like a time consuming exercise, they can also save you a lot of time when it comes to studying, as you have a thorough record of what your teacher thought important enough to cover in class. Using your notes, you study only the relevant information. Whereas using a textbook may mean you end up going around the houses, just to learn one basic concept.
So make your notes as good as they can be.